A Constance McMillen Rant: Mississippi Students Bigotry Reflects The Tone Of America

You remember Constance McMillan, the lesbian teen from Mississippi who was denied attendance to her prom if she brought a girl and wore a tux. Well, she finally had her prom, but there’s a catch. Only 7 other students were there including the principal and a few teachers. The other outcasts included 2 learning disabled students who didn’t receive an invite to the alternate prom. School officials approved the alternate prom that was held across town and arranged by the parents of students. Although Constance was aware of the alternate prom, she was not invited and did not attend to avoid creating a scene and further agitating her classmates. Due to growing concern over the amount of public attention this was drawing, Constance’s girlfriend did not attend prom at the request of her parents.

My thoughts on this are two fold. The school district failed to serve the best interests of its students equally by allowing a separate prom to be held. The reason for arranging the alternate prom was based on a lie based on ignorance, hatred and a serious lack of accepting differences. Tolerance is one thing, but acceptance is something else entirely. The extent of deviousness found beneath the layers of the actions of the parents and school board is not mind blowing, but it is at the very least, cowardly and disheartening.

The fact is, they found a loophole in the judges ruling. First, after promising to deliver an all-inclusive dance, they reneged, but only to an extent. The school hosted the official prom which was already underhanded because by then parents and students had already arranged an alternate prom to be held at the same time, outside county lines. They invited a select lot of students and excluded Constance and a few others. They had their cake and ate it too. 
 

At a hearing on a preliminary injunction filed by the ACLU, Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson ruled that the district had violated McMillen’s First Amendment rights but that it shouldn’t be forced to sponsor a prom since a group of parents had already agreed to hold an event that would be “open to all IAHS students.

Last Monday night, those parents announced they would no longer host that prom. On Tuesday afternoon, school district attorney Michele Floyd said a private prom would be held at the Fulton Country Club, although the exact sponsorship of that event remains a mystery.

People are outraged that a separate prom was held and that is understandable, but I’m more surprised at the outrage than anything else. What’s less shocking is the knowledge that students of different races were present at the alternate prom, according to some students in attendance. Black, Hispanic and White students as well as interracial couples were said to have danced the night away. It’s nice to see how far Mississippi has come come, but they still have a long way to go. I have seen no pictures to back these claims however. Either way, homophobia is not black and white and it’s not a sickness resigned to strict, conservative thought processes; it’s an American institution that’s becoming more the norm with each passing day.

When kids perpetuate behavior that can be found in movies like Mean Girls, behavior that is outlandish and unacceptable, we ought to know that mindset took root somewhere and home seems the likely place. Parents hold the majority on swaying their childrens thinking from early on. This mindset is not dependent on any one religion, culture or socio-economic baseline or status. Wake up America. Bigotry against homosexuals isn’t resigned to any one section of the country. It is everywhere. If it weren’t, discrimination wouldn’t be a damn issue every time we turn around. If it’s not the US military’s separate but equal policy it’s the government’s refusal to grant federal marriage recognition to gay, married couples, or the old elitist heterosexuals who taught old school and closeted homosexuals that to stay in their minority place is their best bet for having a place in society. If not for these overwhelming instances of discrimination we’d have only the parents or their religion to blame.

As a black lesbian, I thank God for people like Harriet Tubman who said “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves” and Martin Luther King who said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

If not for these attention seeking, riot revelers, my ancestors and theirs would still be picking cotton balls on a plantation somewhere down south.

Since when did second-class citizenship become cool? It’s like every time DADT or Marriage Equality is brought to the forefront, we have to listen to well meaning old farts tell us we aren’t ready to be free yet.  Or we get to hear from the baby boomers how we should sit back and “be patient.” All it will take is a few more years until your grand-kids will be able to enjoy all of the rights deserve now. Be a little more patient my ass! If I had to give what that’s called a name I’d call it “subconscious homophobia”, which I suspect a good portion of the straight community is afflicted with.

If you’ve ever been accused of living a “lifestyle not in line with Christ” which basically takes the pressure off of anyone who hates gay people just for the hell of it, or who feels that to know someone is gay is akin to that person “throwing it all up in their face”, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. It is that disrespect that makes people believe that separate but equal with regard to gay is acceptable. So when a group of kids and their stupid parents pull off something this blatant and in the open how can the rest of society honestly feign alarm?

In case anyone has forgotten, this is America. The reason stuff like this flies is because the majority of Americans haven’t combated their internal fears and resignations about homosexuality yet. Constance, like the rest of the gay population in America, is in the minority. Even with the backlash against the school and parents, we are still in the minority. Anyone who is gay, bisexual, trans or closeted is in the minority. Even if you’re not out, you aren’t equal in this society. Kids aren’t dumb, but can play it when necessary. They knew they could get away with ostracizing Constance and the two disabled students because they would have their parents backing, the school’s support and the rest of the community behind them. When shit like this is allowed to go unchecked, it simply makes it easier for the next group of bullies to inflict the same emotional wounds upon the next brave young soul.

I imagine having a conversation about this with someone I cared about, but whom I knew was not accepting of homosexuality. Would they think Constance was making something out of nothing while bringing shame to her community, or would they think Constance was standing up for herself and indirectly, an entire community, by refusing to be treated as lesser than? I also wonder if some of the outrage directed at the parents by ordinary folk is not because of some hidden guilt for not standing up for LGBT equality in the past. You see, parts of the South aren’t alone in their contempt for gay rights. Southerners aren’t the only ones voting down measures that would extend equality to all Americans. It’s a mixed bag that extends across the country.

I was thinking how instances like this often result in a double-edged sword. I read some comments from students who attended the alternate prom. One indicated that having an alternate prom and not inviting Candace was their right, and one they fully intended to use. There were comments from parents saying that the majority spoke and the majority ruled. She went on about how she didn’t want her children to be forced to attend school functions and social gatherings with gays and lesbians. She didn’t want “them” pushing their “gay agenda” onto the heterosexual students. She was, in essence, confusing the definitions of tolerance and intolerance. She felt that since Constance was not wanted at the other party by the other students, she shouldn’t be allowed to attend because the majority rules and it would be intolerant of Constance to go against their wishes. That is exactly what the students did in a way. They equated Constance’s quest for tolerance and equality as similar to their desire to exclude her because her difference posed a threat to their sensibilities. It’s absolutely absurd any way you look at it, but stupid parents and the stupid school board justified the prom humiliation and it will probably remain the single greatest prank these kids ever get to play on anyone in their lives.

If nothing else, they’ve gotten a taste of real life while still in high school. Even worse, these kids will make all sorts of important decisions someday, political and otherwise, and I can only hope that between now and then they will have been well oiled by a extreme and socially liberal machine. There are rumors that other gay students attended the alternate prom.  I guess that’s supposed to show how welcoming the community really is to homosexuals.  It also goes to show that there is a serious disconnect between why the students felt it was fitting to throw an alternate prom and why the parents felt it was morally correct to set it all up for them while also excluding Constance and a few others.

Here’s a nice letter that one of Constance’s classmates wrote to clear the air and defend the actions of the parents in light of the school boards decision:

I am a senior at IAHS, and I’veknown Constance for the last 6 years. Please hear our side of the story before you decide on our fate. The party we had in Evergreen (the county neighborhood I live in) is 30 mins away from the school. we rented out the community center, hired vendors, decorated, and our parents ran the security/chaperone staff- but it wasn’t prom. Prom was at the country club where constance and 7 other students were. The reason the senior class boycotted the actual prom was not because we hate gays.
We wanted a drama-free gathering to celebrate 3 great years and 1 lousy one together, and we wanted to lay low. We also wanted to do it without the main cause of the lousy. What people are failing to realize is that much of the fault of this whole stink lies with Constance, not her mistreatment by the school district, but her crazy-reckless need for attention. It sounds mean and horrible and like we planned it all specifically to embarrass Constance, but we didn’t. We let her have her prom with her girlfriend and her tuxedo and we went to party it up in the “boondocks” not because we wanted her rights violated, but so we could salvage what has turned into a total fiasco.
As a whole we didn’t support her decision to throw the district under the bus, or her insinuations that we’re all just a bunch ‘a hicks driving around in beater pick up trucks spitting tobacco and burning crosses. IAHS is one of the top schools in the state and I’m proud of that, and I’m proud that we took a stand and just said you know what? forget it, we have just as much right as you do to have a party for ourselves. So we did, and now we’re getting flack because poor Connie’s ego got a bit of bruising. She’s playing the lesbian card to prove she ALWAYS gets what she wants. This time, we didn’t just let her.
Take it as you will, because I’m sure it sounds like we faked her out, but understand this- the decision NOT to attend prom had nothing to do with the school or with Constance’s sexual preferences; it had everything to do with proving we weren’t going to let her and the ACLU steamroll us into doing what Constance wanted. We flexed the muscle of the majority and we’ll suffer the consequences.

My initial reaction: Well damn!

My follow up reaction to my initial reaction: I can imagine all of this being said and written in reference to a black student.

Times have certainly changed.

It sounds like what he really meant to say was this:

We don’t hate gays, just the drama they bring when they try to fight for the same rights heterosexuals have. Not only are they attention seeking drama whores, they are whores by their very nature because the bible and our parents have told us so. We just wanted to lay low and have a private party without the drama seeking fags and retards trying to ruin everything. And we did. Now our school is getting even more negative attention than we ever imagined. We thought that by excluding the attention-whoring-lesbo everything would all go away and back to normal. All the lousy media and N00B ACLU would just disappear, but NOOOOOOOO! We didn’t want to embarrass her, but we wanted her to know just who runs things in this school and town. We do. We LET her have a prom with her girlfriend and we LET her wear a man’s suit too. Not only did we do all of this, we held our party on the bad end of town just so we wouldn’t feel as much guilt about LETTING Constance get her party on with the principal, teachers and a few other retards we didn’t want showing up.  

Even though the school board made the terrible decision of canceling prom, we decided to blame Constance because we think her sexuality is disgusting, and she’s way annoying anyway. We have gone to school with her for the past 4 years, and we’ve allowed her to exist; that’s all she should be asking for anyway. It has nothing to do with gay people and their wanting equal rights and stuff. Damn gays and their wanting rights and stuff. Not in Itawamba; they won’t get them here. Even though it’s not something we should really be bragging about, we’re one of the top schools in the state of Mississippi. Can’t you tell by the civil way we handled this matter? We’re damn proud of it, too!

Well, gee, I guess that explains it all. It’s interesting to read into how young people can so easily view other young peoples activism, regardless of the cause, as drama. It’s also disappointing to see how easy it is for people to blame the victim. If fighting for ones rights comes off as attention seeking, so be it. I do think it’s interesting how people bury their unintended homophobia under other titles and beliefs or file those thoughts away under religion as if that alone is their saving grace. People want gays to be invisible. Just like it’s been since human beings first walked the earth, homosexuals aren’t going anywhere and we’re not going to up and disappear. Sorry to disappoint. There are too many heterosexuals having babies that will soon be gay for that to ever happen.

These kids will learn soon enough that just because they don’t like something, doesn’t mean it’s going away. If more gays, lesbians and regular people had the courage and bravery that Constance has displayed, we wouldn’t have to fight half as hard or half as long for our civil rights.

Here is the Itawamba School District’s contact info if you’d like to write them a letter:
Itawamba County School District 605 South Cummings Fulton, MS 38843

E-mail: itawambacountyschools.com

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2 Responses to “A Constance McMillen Rant: Mississippi Students Bigotry Reflects The Tone Of America”
  1. Cherina says:

    Excellent read. You and I know this level of bigotry is not going away any time soon. There is no real conversation about sexuality in this country, and that is why homophobia exists. This country thrives off of hypocrisy and hides behind unstable puritanical beliefs. Understanding the history of this country, what happened in Mississippi does not surprise me whatsoever.

    We have to start engaging our opponents in real conversation. There is way too much finger pointing and yelling about acceptance. People WILL NOT accept what they do not understand. Just saying “look at me, I’m different, love me!” is not enough. A new formula has to be stirred up if there are to be additional victories for the LGBT community. What is the formula? I don’t know.

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